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# Formalizing some elaborations

1. The boat is a rowboat. (Or the boat is a motorboat). By itself this is a trivial elaboration. Adding it should not affect the reasoning. By default, a tool, i.e. the boat, is usable. Further elaborations might use specific properties of rowboats.

2. The missionaries and cannibals have hats, all different--another trivial elaboration. These hats may be exchanged among the missionaries and cannibals. In all the elaborations mentioned below, exchanging hats is an action irrelevant to crossing the river. There are two demands on the reasoner. Epistemologically, whatever reasoning that establishes a plan for crossing the river without the hats should be valid with the hats. This includes any nonmonotonic reasoning.

Heuristically, the problem may not be trivial. Why should it be obvious that exchanging hats is of no use? Certainly we can make elaborations in which it is of use, e.g. we can assert that if the smallest missionary wears the hat belonging to the largest missionary, the largest cannibal won't eat him even if they go together.

However, it should be possible to tell a problem solver: Look for a solution that has no hat change actions. After that, the reasoner should find the solution as easily as it would if hats were never mentioned.

3. There are four missionaries and four cannibals. The problem is now unsolvable. In ordinary logic, adding sentences that there are four of each produces a contradiction. Belief revision systems ought to make the correct change. It seems to me that people take a metalinguistic stance, just saying Change the numbers of missionaries and cannibals to four'', thus regarding the original statement of the problem as an object. Actually what is regarded as an object is the sense of the original statement, since people ordinarily don't remember the words used.

Proofs of impossibility take the following form. Choose a predicate formula on situations. Show and . Also show

Thus you can't get out of the situations satisfying , and the goal isn't included. The simplest is a disjunction of specific locations of the missionaries and cannibals in the reachable situations, but this disjunction is long, and it is very likely possible to do better.

We can regard the argument that four can't cross as a kind of elaboration. A formalism that doesn't permit expressing the best argument is then deficient in elaboration tolerance.

4. The boat can carry three. Four can cross but not five. If the boat can carry four an arbitrary number can cross. [2003 Sept: This is mistaken. Joohyung Lee showed that if the boat holds three, five can cross.]

5. There is an oar on each bank. One person can cross in the boat with just one oar, but two oars are needed if the boat is to carry two people. We can send a cannibal to get the oar and then we are reduced to the original problem. 4

A formalism using preconditions can accept this elaboration as just adding a precondition for rowing, the action of putting an oar in the boat and adding facts about the locations of the oars in .

The oar-on-each-bank elaboration can be expressed by conjoining to (12),

but this looks a bit ad hoc. In particular, it wouldn't tolerate the further elaboration of making the boat hold three if that elaboration were expressed as the single sentence

In order to admit the reasoning that getting the oar reduces the problem to MCP0, we will need a notion of one problem reducing to another--or one theory reducing to another.

6. Only one missionary and one cannibal can row. The problem is still solvable. Before this elaboration, we did not need to distinguish among the missionaries or among the cannibals. An elaboration tolerant language must permit this as an addition. We use

 (12)

and
 (13)

7. The missionaries can't row. This makes the problem impossible, since any solution requires two missionaries in the boat at some time. The formalism must admit the statement and proof of this lemma.

For this we need (12) and .

8. The biggest cannibal cannot fit in the boat with another person. The problem is solvable. However, if the biggest missionary cannot fit in the boat with another person the problem becomes unsolvable. We can imagine having to elaborated in the direction of saying what sets of people can fit in the boat. The elaborations are and

 (14)

Note that the defining property of the biggest cannibal is unnecessary to make the elaboration work. I assume we'd pay for this shortcut, were further elaboration necessary.

The corresponding elaboration about the biggest missionary is formalized in the same way; only the conclusion is different.

9. If the biggest cannibal is isolated with the smallest missionary, the latter will be eaten. A solution to the basic problem can be specialized to avoid this contingency. We have the Gricean implicature that the cannibals aren't all the same size, and need to have language for referring to an individual as the biggest cannibal and not just language to refer to him by name. We have

 (15)

and
 (16)

10. One of the missionaries is Jesus Christ. Four can cross. Here we are using cultural literacy. However, a human will not have had to have read Mark 6:48-49 to have heard of Jesus walking on water. The formalism of Section 6 permits this elaboration just by adjoining the sentence

 (17)

However, this elaboration says nothing about walking on water and therefore seems to be a cheat.

11. Three missionaries alone with a cannibal can convert him into a missionary. The problem for elaboration tolerance is to change a predicate that doesn't depend on situation or time to one that does. Note that a sorted logical language with missionaries and cannibals as distinct sorts would freeze the intolerance into the language itself.

12. The probability is 1/10 that a cannibal alone in a boat will steal it. We can ask what is the probability that a given plan will succeed, say the Amarel plan. The formalism of [McC79a] treats propositions as objects. Using that formalism can be expressed for any proposition . I see at least two problems. The language of propositions as objects needs to be rich enough to express notions like the probability of a cannibal stealing the boat on an occasion--or of being a thief who always steals boats if alone. The second problem is that we need to be able to assert independence or joint distributions without letting the entire formalism be taken over by its probabilistic aspects. In MCP0, cannibals have to be alone in the boat several times. We can write a formula that states that probabilities are independent by default.

We now need to infer that the probability of successfully completing the task is 0.9.

13. There is a bridge. This makes it obvious to a person that any number can cross provided two people can cross at once. It should also be an obvious inductive argument in the sense of McAllester [McA]. This is a straightforward elaboration in situation calculus formalisms, since adding the bridge is accomplished just by adding sentences. There is no need to get rid of the boat unless this is part of the elaboration wanted.

14. The boat leaks and must be bailed concurrently with rowing. Elaboration tolerance requires that treating a concurrent action be a small change in the statement of the problem, and this will show the limitations of some versions of situation calculus.

15. The boat may suffer damage and have to be taken back to the left bank for repair. This may happen at any time. This requires that the formalism permit splitting the event of crossing the river into two parts.

16. There is an island. Then any number can cross, but showing it requires inductive arguments. Though inductive, these arguments should be obvious. Defining the three stages--moving the cannibals to the island, moving the missionaries to the opposite bank and then moving the cannibals to the opposite bank--is an easy three step problem, provided moving the sets of missionaries and cannibals can be regarded as tasks. Whether the elaboration is easy depends on the original representation.

There may be a nonmonotonic rule that if you keep getting closer to a goal and there is no inferrable obstacle you will achieve the goal. Zeno's paradox'' of Achilles and the tortoise involves noting that this rule doesn't always hold, i.e. is nonmonotonic. Such a rule would make the above induction easy and maybe obvious.

17. There are four cannibals and four missionaries, but if the strongest of the missionaries rows fast enough, the cannibals won't have gotten so hungry that they will eat the missionaries. This could be made precise in various ways, but the information is usable even in vague form.5

18. There are four missionaries and four cannibals, but the cannibals are not hungry initially, and the missionaries have a limited amount of cannibal food. They can tell if a cannibal is hungrier than he was and can avoid trouble by giving the food to the cannibal who has got hungrier. This requires comparing a situation and a successor situation.

19. There are two sets of missionaries and cannibals too far apart along the river to interact. The two problem should be solvable separately without considering interleaving actions at the two sites. If the two problems are different elaborations, the work required and the length of the proof should be the sum of the lengths for the separate problems plus a small constant.

The theory of two sets of missionaries should be a conservative extension of each of the subtheories. We have called this property conjunctivity.

There are sites along the river with identical conditions. The reasoning should be able to do one site, or a generalized site, and, with a constant amount of additional reasoning, say that all crossings are the same.

20. After rowing twice, a person becomes too tired to row any more. [Added 2003 April 1].

Next: Remarks and Acknowledgements Up: ELABORATION TOLERANCE Previous: Actions by Persons and
John McCarthy
2003-09-29